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Kentucky leads country in attendance once again

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Kentucky led the country in average attendance last season while the Big Ten was tops among conferences, according to data released by the NCAA.

The Wildcats had a total of 393,743 fans attend 18 home games for a country-best 21,874 per game. Syracuse actually led the nation in total fans with 407,778 fans in attendance, but with 19 home games, the Orange narrowly trailed Kentucky with 21,462 fans per game.

Kentucky has led the country in attendance in four of the past five seasons and seven of the last nine.

Rounding out the top five was North Carolina (18,378), Wisconsin (17,272) and Creighton (17,000).

The Big Ten averaged 12,197 fans per game across the league with a total of 3,098,134 attending games for all 14 teams. The B1G also led the country in conference tournament attendance with 106,169 – which the league undoubtedly will look at as a huge success for it first foray into New York City and Madison Square Garden.

The SEC averaged 11,628 fans per game while the ACC was at 10,773, the Big 12 at 10,376 and the Big East at 10,371.

The Final Four had a total of 136,088 fans attend its three games while the entire NCAA tournament averaged 19,246 fans per session.

 

Former Louisville players file suit against NCAA over vacated 2013 national title

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A group of former Louisville men’s basketball players have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA over the organization’s vacation of the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four.

John Morgan, one of several attorneys representing former Cardinals captain Luke Hancock, the 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, and four teammates from that title team, said a lawsuit had been filed and described the NCAA as “a morally bankrupt organization” that exploits student-athletes during a Wednesday news conference.

The suit filed Wednesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court does not specify monetary damages. It states the NCAA cast the plaintiffs in a false light and seeks declaration that it wrongfully vacated the plaintiffs’ wins, honors and awards.

Morgan added, “If all we get is this championship back for Louisville, and the players, and the city, and Luke’s MVP back, that’s going to be plenty pay for us.”

The attorney also mentioned former Louisville players Gorgui Dieng, Tim Henderson, Stephan Van Treese and Mike Marra as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The NCAA stripped Louisville of the title as part of sanctions for violations discovered during an escort scandal investigation .

Hancock stressed that his title ring “is not coming off” and said the embarrassing scandal continues to dog him despite not being involved.

“It’s been five years and I can’t tell you two days where I’ve gone without having someone come to me and ask me if I had strippers or prostitutes in the dorm,” he said.

“I’m excited that Morgan & Morgan has partnered with us and is going to represent us because enough is enough.”

The governing body in February denied the school’s appeal and vacated 123 victories, including their third NCAA title, following an escort’s book allegations in October 2015 that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers for sex parties. Louisville removed the championship banner from its home arena soon afterward.

“We are used to fighting giants,” Morgan said. “In the sports world, I don’t think there is any Goliath that exists like the NCAA. The NCAA is a giant, but the NCAA is a morally bankrupt organization that has taken advantage of economically disadvantaged young people throughout our country.

“They answer to nobody but are bad for everybody.”

The liability attorney did not mention former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who has denied knowledge of the activities alleged by Katina Powell in her book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.”

Hancock said he frequently talks with Pitino but did not specifically ask if he wanted to be involved.

Several investigations soon followed after Powell’s allegations, including ones by the school and the NCAA. Louisville’s own investigation found that violations did occur and imposed penalties including sitting out the 2016 postseason in an effort to mitigate NCAA penalties.

The organization in June 2017 ordered Louisville to vacate victories that included the championship and Final Four appearance for activities it described as “repugnant” in its decision. Pitino was suspended for five games for failing to monitor McGee and vowed to fight the penalties. The school and the coach vowed then to fight the penalties.

As the appeals process unfolded, the Hall of Fame coach was suspended and eventually fired after 16 seasons last fall following Louisville’s acknowledgment of its involvement in a federal corruption of college basketball.

Pitino is not named in the federal complaint and has denied knowledge of any payments made to the family of former Louisville recruit Brian Bowen. The coach is suing the school along with sportswear maker Adidas, which dropped him after his firing.

Members of 2012, 2013 Louisville teams to file lawsuit against NCAA

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As part of the sanctions handed down to the University of Louisville men’s basketball program as a result of the escort scandal that came to light a couple years ago, the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced that the results of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 teams would be vacated from the record books.

That ruling means that the Cardinals’ trip to the Final Four in 2012 and national title the following season can no longer be acknowledged by the school. Members of those teams have refused to take the decision lying down, and on Tuesday it was announced via press release that a lawsuit will be filed against the NCAA.

The lawsuit was officially filed Wednesday morning in Commonwealth of Kentucky Jefferson Circuit Court.

“We’re here today to get back what was wrongfully taken,” attorney John Morgan said during a press conference Wednesday morning. “We’re here to reinstate ALL of those wins, not just some of those wins. But more than that — we are here today to get these players’ good names back.”

The act of vacating a team’s records is one that many have questioned over the years with regards to its effectiveness; it isn’t as if a Louisville fan will suddenly forget watching these teams play. But with the vacation of those records comes, for the school, a loss of revenue from those seasons.

And of even greater importance, especially for the athletes who played, no longer being officially acknowledged for what you and your teammates achieved is a big deal. Players such as 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock and guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith certainly won’t forget what they worked together to achieve, and the fans won’t forget cheering them on either.

But to walk into the KFC Yum! Center and not see the banners associated with those teams is a bitter pill to swallow for all involved.

Summer league breakthrough for Harry Giles begs a what-if for 2017 Duke

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Back in the fall of 2016, Duke received 58 of 65 votes for the top spot in the preseason Associated Press Top 25. The Blue Devils, you’ll remember, were loaded. They brought back Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson, which would be enough of a core to compete in the ACC and the NCAA tournament itself.

But that’s not why Mike Krzyzewski’s team was the overwhelming national title favorite to start that season. It was the addition of two top-five phenoms that really had expectations for Duke championship-or-bust. Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles (and we shouldn’t forget 11th-ranked Marques Bolden) were going to be the one-two punch to make Duke not only the best team in the country, but maybe a dominant one, one that we would be comparing teams to for a decade.

It didn’t exactly work out that way.

Duke went 11-7 and finished tied for fifth in the ACC. They were upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament by South Carolina. Though Tatum did deliver on his star power, eventually being drafted third in the NBA draft by the Celtics and looking like a potential future MVP candidate during Boston’s playoff run, Giles’ fortunes were more in line with the Blue Devils’.

Once regarded as a potential top pick in the 2017 draft, Giles struggled at Duke to return to the form that made him a top prospect before two ACL tears during his prep years set him back significantly. After undergoing a procedure on the knee in the preseason, he played a total of just 300 minutes for Duke, averaging 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He was drafted 20th overall by the Kings last June simply on the strength of what he used to be before the knee injuries seemingly sapped him of his undeniable upside.

When Giles didn’t play a minute last year as the Kings sidelined him to get his knees right, it only furthered the belief that his best basketball, even at just age 20, could be behind him.

Giles is offering an alternative theory this summer, though.

The 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two Las Vegas summer league games after a strong showing in the Sacramento league previously, but even more importantly is showing an explosiveness that belies his injury history.

That Giles, the version who could make plays like the one above with regularity, was what had everyone so excited about that Duke team just two years ago. If the Blue Devils would have had something approximating this Giles, who looks bouncy and aggressive and fluid, alongside Tatum – plus that veteran core – watch out. That was the thinking then, and it’s hard not to think about it again now with what looks to be a Giles renaissance upon us.

Super teams are all the rage in the NBA, but Duke had the look of a potential one in November 2016.

“I’m starting to put more stuff together,” Giles told the Kings’ website last week. “I’m starting to show more parts of my game. More and more each game that you might not’ve seen in my the few games that I played.

“I’m getting my groove back.”

What could be for Giles suddenly looks to be a high ceiling once again. It’s hard not to look back at what could have been.

Unless you’re partial to Carolina blue, I suppose.

Zion Williamson breaks Duke vertical leap record

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Duke freshman Zion Williamson is going to be one of the bigger stories in college basketball this season after the hype surrounding his high school career.

An extraordinary leaper and big-time athlete, Williamson set a new record at Duke for vertical leap during the team’s summer combine testing this week.

Williamson cleared the rack during testing. Plenty of guys have been able to clear the rack during vertical testing. But not many are built like NFL defensive lineman.

The rack had to be elevated for Williamson to properly finish out his vertical testing. He’s also listed at 6-foot-7, 285 pounds on the Duke website.

Williamson cleared the rack so easily that teammate R.J. Barrett — one of the best players in the country — was laughing while marveling at his leaping ability. It’s going to be fun to watch Williamson play above the rim for the Blue Devils this season.

 

Duke’s R.J. Barrett could have big role on Canadian senior national team

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Duke incoming freshman R.J. Barrett has made a big impact on the Canadian senior national team during his first two exhibition games.

Considered by some to be the No. 1 incoming freshman in college basketball this season, the 6-foot-7 Barrett averaged 18.5 points per game during Canada’s two exhibition friendlies against the Chinese national team. Canada basketball is preparing for an important stretch as they play in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifier next.

In the second win, Barrett had 21 points to go along with five assists and three rebounds as he was the team’s leading scorer. Considering that the Canadian senior national team features NBA players and other professionals, this is quite an accomplishment and something to keep an eye on over these next few weeks. Barrett has previously been a star for the Canadian national team, but it has come at the younger levels of FIBA play and not with the senior national team.

It’s one thing to dominant at the U19 level against a John Calipari-coached team of American high school and college stars. It’s another level when established pros are deferring to a player who is fresh out of high school.

Barrett’s development into a potential go-to player is not only intriguing for the future of Canadian men’s basketball, but it’s also important for Duke. Barrett has a chance to be a special talent next season.

With the Blue Devils having a very young team once again next season, they’ll ideally need someone like Barrett to take the burden of being the primary scorer. There isn’t a senior fallback option like Grayson Allen to rely on now that he’s moved on to the NBA. Duke is going to be one of the most talented teams in the country — on paper. But we still need to see how this extremely talented freshman class handles the expectations and the rigors of the ACC.

If Barrett shows an ability to take over games like he’s done with the Canadian senior national team, then it will be a good sign that he can be a dominant offensive player for the Blue Devils this season. It’s also interesting to note that Barrett will be the only member of Duke’s expected rotation who is not on campus with the team during the upcoming July 2nd summer session. Barrett is expected to join the team later this summer as the Blue Devils get an important overseas trip (and 10 extra practice days) to try to get the freshmen playing on the same page.

While Barrett has been the showstopper for the Canadians so far, Florida incoming freshman guard Andrew Nembhard will also be a player to watch with regards to the college ranks in this event. After going scoreless during the first Canadian exhibition win, Nembhard exploded for 18 points and three assists in the second win, as he went an impressive 6-for-7 behind the FIBA three-point line.